I Take Vitamins

vitaminYes, I am a vitamin taker… have been for years, and will probably continue. Yet I have to admit my resolve was shaken a bit today. My google news feed had an interesting article from Forbes you can read here:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2013/12/17/study-multivitamins-lack-clear-health-benefits-may-pose-risks/

The gist of the article is that several long term studies have shown “…supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful.” These studies used similar techniques. Large groups of randomly selected individuals were given either a vitamin/mineral supplement or a placebo for a long period of time, and their health outcomes were monitored. These studies found no significant difference between the two groups in terms of health outcomes.

This post is a followup to my post from yesterday. There will probably be a couple of different responses to this post from you readers. Some will think, “hmmm that is interesting. Perhaps I’ll read the Forbes’ article and give the matter some thought.” While some will think, “Ted has to be wrong, Forbes has to be wrong, and anyone that questions the value of supplements has to be wrong.” I put myself in the first camp, which is why I am happy to be firmly in the science camp. If data from well crafted and implemented studies cast some doubt on the subject, my first job is to determine if the studies were carried out by reputable non-biased scientists, and that the study model conforms with accepted practices. If all this checks out, and the data indicate a belief I’ve held most of my life to be false, then I need to take a better look at that belief.

My idealistic self suggests that the folks making money from vitamin/mineral supplements will jump on the bandwagon and work to fund and/or conduct credible studies of their own to determine whether the work they do has any benefit to society. And should the studies confirm nothing useful, then they’d use their resources to find something that is useful.

My cynical self says that these folks have a lot to lose from determining the truth in whatever form it may take, so they’ll probably not spend money looking for the truth, but will instead insist that the organs in your body are full of toxins, and that large doses of supplements will effectively detox these organs. No data to back up these claims, just claims made by seemingly credible folks that are appealing to ideas we already have.

So the question that presents itself is this: We are confronted daily with data that supports and contradicts our beliefs. If we refuse to believe the data that contradicts what we believe, how are we to move forward? Surely we all harbor false beliefs. Surely we all agree that these beliefs do us no good (if they’re false) and probably do us harm. Surely it is in our best interests to root out the bad stuff. What technique will we use to do this important pruning? The most useful and consistently correct technique I know of is science.

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